Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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End to Euphrates Shield, but Not to U.S.-Turkey Tensions

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters gather during an offensive against self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province, Syria, February 8, 2017 (Reuters/Rodi Said).

Caroline O’Leary is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced the end of Operation Euphrates Shield, deeming the military campaign, which began in August of 2016, a success. The operation brought an armored battalion and supporting ground forces across the border into Syria, the first direct Turkish military intervention into the country. The campaign had two declared objectives: to remove self-proclaimed Islamic State forces from towns along the Turkish-Syrian border towns and to prevent armed Kurdish groups from advancing. Achieving the former clearly helped bring the United States closer to its own goal to “demolish and destroy ISIS.” Turkey’s efforts to stunt Kurdish progress, however, significantly complicate U.S. interests in the region. Read more »

Turkey-EU Trade on Tenterhooks? Faltering Membership Talks Threaten Economic Ties

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan attends a Republic Day ceremony at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk, to mark the republic's anniversary in Ankara, Turkey, October 29, 2016. (Reuters/Bektas).

Sabina Frizell is a research associate in the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After yesterday’s assassination of the Russian ambassador, Turkish officials were quick to place blame on Fetullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader and one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s strongest critics. Erdogan is sure to use the attack as yet another justification to silence dissenting voices in the name of security. His ongoing crackdown further diminishes Turkey’s prospects for joining the European Union (EU), following the European Parliament’s overwhelming vote on November 24 to suspend membership negotiations. Read more »

Ending War in South Sudan: A New Approach

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
South Sudan National security members ride on their truck as they protect internally displaced people during a reallocation at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound at the UN House in Jebel, in South Sudan's capital Juba, August 31, 2016. (Solomun/Reuters)

Sarah Collman is a research associate in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On December 15, South Sudan will have been at civil war for three years. In 2013, just two years after the country seceded from Sudan and gained independence, fighting broke out in the capital between forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. The political struggle between Kiir and Machar dating back to the 1990s, and divisions within the ruling party, quickly devolved into full-scale civil war, pitting tribal groups against each other. Leaders manipulated ethnic identities and mobilized members of their respective tribes. Forces loyal to Kiir were mainly from the Dinka tribe, and were pitted against Machar’s tribe, the Nuer. Read more »

A Literal Cold War: The EU-Russian Struggle Over Energy Security

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
An employee walks at Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom's Sudzha pumping station, January 13, 2009 (Sinyakov/Reuters).

Niall Henderson is an Interdepartmental Program Assistant at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On September 14, Ukraine initiated arbitration against the Russian Federation for violations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with specific reference to access of energy resources off the coast of Ukraine and Russian-annexed Crimea. This development follows the Russian seizure of Crimean oil rigs in the Black Sea in late 2015, and the installation of rigs bearing Russian flags in the area more recently. Regardless of the outcome of the litigation, the escalation of Russian-Ukrainian tensions has serious consequences for European energy security. Ukraine lies at a critical juncture between Europe and Russia, and therefore its ability to resist Russian energy securitization has widespread implications for the European Union (EU) as well as for U.S. strategic options in the region. Read more »

Why Donald Trump is Wrong About NATO

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
NATO soldiers during a military exercise in Portugal on October 20, 2015. (Marchante/Reuters)

Dan Alles is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At the 2016 Warsaw Summit last month, leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) announced that they will deploy four multinational battalions to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This decision sends an important and reassuring message to the world at a time when some, like Donald Trump, are questioning the reliability and sustainability of the alliance altogether. Although Trump’s comments about burden-sharing have some merit, his judgements are misguided; weakening the current deterrence posture or abandoning the alliance would be disastrous for U.S. and global security. NATO is not only a collective deterrent against Russian aggression, but also a political and military organization that has adapted to meet twenty-first century challenges. Through these developments, NATO has become an indispensable part of U.S. security, and despite some limitations, it should not be abandoned. Read more »

Chilcot Report: Lessons Learned or Mistakes to Be Repeated?

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Journalists examine copies of The Iraq Inquiry Report by Sir John Chilcot, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London, Britain July 6, 2016. (Mitchell/Reuters)

Jennifer Wilson is a Research Associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week, the results of a seven-year British investigation into the decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq were released. The 2.6 million-word Chilcot Report (after former civil servant Sir John Chilcot) details the faulty decision-making and flawed intelligence that contributed to the 2003 invasion, placing much of the blame on Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government. The report offers a comprehensive review of failures in leadership and is intended to offer lessons to safeguard against their repetition. Chilcot, in his statement accompanying the release of the report, observes that military intervention may be necessary in the future, and his report will prepare future leaders to make better decisions. However, the report’s principal conclusions—which confirm what is already known about the war in Iraq—highlight shortcomings that could very well precipitate the inevitable next war. Read more »

Guest Post: Preventing a Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Marines Helmand Afghanistan U.S. Marines prepare to depart upon the end of operations for Marines and British combat troops in Helmand October 27, 2014. (Sobhani/Reuters)

Jared Wright is an intern in the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations.

President Barack Obama’s recent announcement that 8,400 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of his administration, nearly 3,000 more troops than his previous timeline, reflects the tenuous stability that Afghanistan has achieved after nearly fifteen years of U.S. involvement. A resurgent Taliban and the appearance of self-proclaimed Islamic State forces have tested the ability of the increasingly fragile central government to provide security and political stability and demonstrated the limits of U.S. training and support. Meanwhile, economic and political frustrations across all levels of Afghan society have gone largely unaddressed by the National Unity Government (NUG). The security situation in Afghanistan could worsen, which would threaten U.S. interests in the region. Read more »

Merkel’s Erdogan Problem

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
Germany-Merkel-Turkey-Erdogan German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan address the media after talks in Berlin February 4, 2014 (Reuters/Tobias Schwarz).

Sabina Frizell is a research associate in the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

This week alone, Turkey jailed two journalists on trumped-up terrorism charges, threatened to sue a professor for insulting President Erdogan, and pushed forward the same construction project that sparked massive anti-government protests in 2013. As Turkey’s democracy deteriorates, German-Turkish relations have gone from tense to outright hostile. Chancellor Angela Merkel is vacillating on whether to hold firm to core European Union (EU) values of democracy and human rights or appease Turkey. She can either continue to waver, tacitly accepting Erdogan’s behavior, or send Turkey a strong signal that its human and civil rights violations are unacceptable. Read more »

New Commander, New Rules

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
AfghanistanPOE Incoming Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General John Nicholson attends a change of command ceremony in Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Rahmat Gu/Reuters)

Harry Oppenheimer is a research associate for national security at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan has been subject to restrictive rules of engagement that prohibited targeting the Taliban directly unless they posed a threat to U.S. personnel, or an extreme threat to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Reportedly, this has changed. The recent news was the first major policy change for the Afghan War since General John Nicholson took over command exactly one hundred days before the announcement on March 2, 2016. Combined with today’s story that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases will remain open in Afghanistan into 2017, Nicholson has latitude that would be the envy of his predecessors. Read more »

Austria’s Presidential Election and the Race for the White House

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko
VanDerBellen Former head of the Greens Alexander Van der Bellen addresses a news conference after he announced to run for President in the 2016 Austrian presidential election in Vienna, Austria, January 10, 2016. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)

Anna-Sophia Haub is an Interdepartmental Program Assistant at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Just .6 percent was needed to defeat the far right candidate for the Austrian presidency. That was the difference of 31,000 votes in favor of Alexander Van der Bellen, an independent and former Green Party delegate, to defeat Norbert Hofer of the far right, anti-immigration Freedom Party. Although the Austrian presidential role is mostly ceremonial, it is nevertheless important to the development of the country’s national identity. Read more »